We interviewed Emmanuel Byrd, Daniel Byrd and Abderrahim Boualam about their start-up Agave Networks. Founded during a hackathon organized by Moonshot’s predecessor Hack4Humanity, these individuals are trying to revolutionize the FMCG industry.
What’s the idea behind Agave Networks?
Daniel: Agave Networks is a platform that feeds into the circular economy of the manufacturing industry. Our main focus is to connect industries and share their resources – specifically, surplus resources. Any material or product that a company, organisation, or customer no longer values can be considered a surplus. It’s something they don’t need, and the easiest way to get rid of the surplus is as waste. However, most of this surplus is valued by third-party organisations. We’re just a marketplace that allows finished surplus products to be sold to these third parties.
What were the first few steps behind making your idea a reality?
Daniel: Emmanuel and I worked in a manufacturing company called Janel in Mexico within different backgrounds. That’s when we picked up on the problem of having too much surplus. We decided to use the company’s surplus and physically knocked on people’s doors locally. We found that there were a range of clients willing to buy them – from small vendors to bigger fish such as established distributors. From then on, we just scaled the entire idea while testing and implementing changes. We also tried to open our own physical shop in Mexico to see how the market would react. Through simple tests, we’ve gained an understanding of the different perspectives at play, which helps us when approaching anyone.
Do you delegate tasks amongst your team?
Daniel: All of us founders have very different backgrounds, but when you actually start building the start-up, these roles completely disappear. It’s a learning curve and everyone picks up new skills. Of course, there are some tasks which specialists on your team have to do, but there are no designated roles.
Abderrahim: I completely agree. Despite having a scientific background, I usually take more responsibility in reaching out to people and contacting potential customers. This is exactly what I wanted out of this entrepreneurial journey – a way to do something outside my comfort zone.
Has it been challenging stepping out of your traditional background?
Abderrahim: For sure, but I love the challenge. If you spend too much time in one field of work (research in my case), then your thinking becomes restricted. Once you discover another vision of the world, it’s an entirely different perspective that requires a different approach. You need to adapt a lot as an entrepreneur.
Daniel: As a founder, you want to change the world – but we’re just three people. There’s a million different things that could come at you. Even amongst our own team, Emmanuel and I are currently in Mexico while Abdi is in London, so even the time-difference is a huge challenge. Whenever we are ready to start working, Abdi is getting ready to go to bed. You have to learn and adapt.
What is the most important factor for success in a start-up?
Emmanuel: I think one of the most important things is flexibility. We as people have strong decisions, and it’s especially common for founders to have a straightforward and strong-minded approach to problems. As a start-up you need to have the flexibility to change and pivot quickly. It’s strange to feel that your own personality might be in the way of your own goals. As a start-up, you want to make a change for people, and it’s important to have the capacity to truly listen to their needs and create an effective solution. On the other hand, you can’t be too flexible: your vision must be clear so that your business can move forward towards a particular goal.
Daniel: Every start-up has a different objective. For us, we’re very integrated into the world of sustainability and positive impact. You should be able to measure your success with your personal values and goals. As a start-up, we haven’t seen much revenue being generated, but we’ve still had enough personal success to drive the project forward. It’s also very important to test your problem and solution so that your idea can be successful. That’s the key to the puzzle – everything else is just institutional paperwork.
Do you have any advice for future entrepreneurs that want to get involved in the social impact space?
Daniel: I would advise them not to think too much about what they want to do. You just need to go out there and get experience. The business is likely to change, so don’t invest your emotions into a very concrete idea. It would only stand in the way of you and your goal. You need to understand that as a young entrepreneur, what you know is not enough to build a fully viable business proposition. The only way to get that experience is to go out there and act on it. Don´t compare your chapter 1 to a chapter 10 of another entrepreneur! Everybody starts somewhere! You’re never going to be prepared enough. You just have to go out there and do it.
Abderrahim: I totally agree. The toughest step is honestly the first step. You understand how different reality is and you have to keep learning to progress forward.
How do you manage degree commitments along with your start-up?
Emmanuel: I mean, Agave Networks has been taking a lot of time away from my university degree – especially on Fridays. I used to have one specific class that I’ve been missing consecutively due to the the Hult Prize pitch timings. I know though that this class is temporary and something that I can catch up on. Agave Networks is something I hope will be able to carry on for 20 to 30 years. I’ve just had to talk to peers and keep up while putting in extra hours. In general, I think the solution is working as a team. If you work as a team with your co-founders, or peers, or family, makes everything a lot easier. Even negotiating with your teacher can help. It’s just about finding dependable people and communicating with them.